Rangers v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 6th April 2012
With the first SPL win of 2012 out of the way Saints now focus on getting their first away league victory since October. Will it come tomorrow against Rangers at Ibrox?
Probably not. It would be greedy in the least to expect anything from tomorrow. Over the course of a season a team is doing lucky if it manages to take anything from the Old Firm. We haven't managed it against Celtic but we've more than made up for that against Rangers as we remain undefeated, with four points out of a possible six. Even if this was at home that record suggests it's unlikely we can take more points tomorrow, however it would be most amusing to get a draw and therefore go through the entire season without losing to Rangers!
Rangers form has dipped a bit since they went into administration as home defeats to Kilmarnock and Hearts, as well as a loss at Tannadice, soon followed. However, this will not be a pushover - Rangers are still a formidable opponent as they showed when they dispatched Celtic a couple of weeks ago and followed that up with a win over Motherwell. The odds of a win over them may be slightly shorter these days but it will still require a magnificent effort from every player and a mistake free performance from the team if we are to avoid a defeat at Ibrox tomorrow.
Who knows what to expect from St Mirren tomorrow. If we play the way we did before our equaliser against Killie last week then we will be destroyed. If we play the way we did for the other three quarters of the game then we have a chance of causing another upset. We have to be switched on from the start because we will be given no time to settle, especially against a Rangers side with a point to prove and desperate to get a win against us.
There were very positive signs last week if you take the first 20 odd minutes away. Stevens Thomson and Thompson were outstanding and managed a Thommo hat-trick, although the taller of the two was struggling towards the end. Hopefully he is fit enough to start was we struggle without him - and he finished off a superb passing move at Ibrox in October. Graham Carey and Jim Goodwin also suffered injuries last week, although replacements Hugh Murray and Dougie Imrie did well and may have earned themselves a start.
Those are likely to be the only changes if everyone else is fit enough to start. Darren McGregor is nowhere near match fit so will be on the bench again, while there aren't exactly plenty of candidates to be dropped if David Barron or Kenny McLean is fit enough to return, the latter the more likely of the two to make the squad. As well as the Thommos we had plenty of good performers last week - Nigel Hasselbaink caused chaos up front and Marc McAusland was excellent at the back. More of the same - for 90 minutes rather than 70 - should stand us in good stead.
Rangers' administration was the story that kept on giving a few weeks ago, each day bring fresh - and, if you didn't support them, amusing - revelations. Things have got a bit more exciting again this week with bids going in and the administrators releasing a lengthy list of creditors. In response, the Rangers fans are going to show red cards tomorrow to demonstrate their anger at the prospect of being liquidated and returning as a “newco” company.
Most clubs when they go into administration shed tens of staff yet Rangers only cut two players - and both of them chose to go. The administrators spent the best part of a fortnight negotiating huge wage cuts and it was around that time the performances dropped. You can understand that as if my employer chopped my wages I wouldn't be as committed but they still owed it to their fans to put on a display, especially as they had turned out in huge numbers for their first couple of home games. It was claimed they had the highest attendance of any football match those weekends - but having the biggest stadium in use those weekends did help!
You have to wonder if the financial problems at Rangers are allowing Ally McCoist to get an easier time of things than if everything was running smoothly behind the scenes. Under his stewardship they were dumped out of two European competitions before losing in the League Cup to Falkirk. They wasted a 15 point lead to Celtic before they'd even been docked 10 points for entering administration - although Celtic did have two games in hand at that stage. Don't buy the nonsense about poor wee skint Rangers either - they still had a squad packed with internationals and better players than all but one other SPL club.
In a change to the Dick Advocaat years some of those internationals are even Scottish! Pick of the lot is Allan McGregor, who is having another good season and is probably seen by the administrators as a pretty valuable asset. Steven Naismith was scoring goals for fun earlier in the season before getting injured while Steven Whittaker's versatility is handy in an apparently small squad. The same goes for former Saint Kirk Broadfoot and summer signing Lee Wallace - who scored against us on Christmas Eve - has also been handy to have on the left hand side of midfield.
Thankfully the days of Lee "Elbows" McCulloch being in the Scotland squad seem to be gone but he has found himself pushed up front recently due to a lack of strikers. The move has worked too as he scored the winner against Motherwell last week. The striking situation wasn't helped by Craig Whyte deciding to sell Nikica Jelavic on transfer deadline day. That, combined with injures to Naismith and Kyle Lafferty, created real problems - so many that David Healy was released from cold storage and scored a few goals. Andy Little has also taken his chance and things got so bad that Salim Kerkar even got a game and looked fairly decent into the bargain. Sone Aluko is a bit more consistent and scored a screamer in the Old Firm game so should enjoy running at our defence tomorrow.
The Rangers' defence is reasonably strong - certainly more so than Celtic's - and that's down to McCoist recruiting two fairly no nonsense centre halfs in Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra. Between those two, Sasa Papac and McGregor they should be fairly reliable at the back and Kyle Bartley's return to fitness adds options. Steven Davis' return to form in recent weeks has also been good news, especially as the administrators are likely to see him as another valuable asset.
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